A rotting carcass was found Saturday, along with skeletal remains and live, neglected animals.
Government officials had to bring in food and water for the animals. And what is located next to this illegal zoo of horrors?
A playground and a daycare center, run under haredi auspices – as was the illegal zoo. And who ran the illegal zoo and, it seems, the daycare center and playground, as well?
Animals, carcasses found in Lakewood
BY MATTHEW MCGRATH
MAY 18, 2008
LAKEWOOD — Police and animal control officers removed animal carcasses from a yard in an industrial park on Saturday after receiving a call from a township official about several farm animals living there, authorities said.
Officials brought food and water for about 20 live animals, including two ponies, a cow and three geese, they found in the yard behind 1805 Swarthmore Ave., a building in the township industrial park.
Jeff Golub, chairman of the Lakewood Industrial Commission, who works nearby, said he heard animal sounds while he was looking at a car for sale at the building, which is the headquarters of an organization named Oorah.
"I was getting ready to leave, and I heard a horse whinny," Golub said.
He called the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on Saturday morning.
The animals shared the yard behind the building with a playground. A day care center operates at the building as well.
State SPCA officers and representatives from the Popcorn Park Zoo joined township police, animal control and the Board of Health as they investigated what Lakewood Councilman Charles Cunliffe, who spent more than three hours at the site, alleged was an "illegal zoo operation."
"There was even skeletal remains," Golub said.
Police would not allow an Asbury Park Press reporter to enter the yard, but a view over a 6-foot-high stockade fence showed animal waste scattered throughout a dirt yard. Cars and trucks were parked haphazardly behind the building. Tools, garbage and bales of hay were scattered through the yard.
Either ducks or geese had recently laid eggs on one of the bales, and the cow was standing in a makeshift barn.
The line between the yard and the day care's playground was demarcated by a chicken-wire fence.
A view from a shorter, chain-link fence at the rear of the property showed a wooded area where the two ponies were hiding along with two goats.
Mounds of old blacktop and concrete created a berm just behind the stockade fence.
"It's horrifying," said Cunliffe, who was at the scene about 3 p.m.
Police there would not comment. No charges had been filed by 6 p.m. Saturday, but an SPCA officer, who refused to give his name, said the investigation will continue.
Oorah, which is Hebrew for awakening, is a charity that helps pay for summer camp and yeshiva tuition for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 18, according to its Web site. It is affiliated with the other businesses at the same address.
The call menu for Oorah gives prompts for Cucumber Communications, a long-distance telephone provider, and Kars4Kids, which accepts donated used cars.
A voice message left for Oorah and Joy for Our Youth was not immediately returned. There was no answer at Cucumber Communications, and a representative from Kars4Kids hung up.
Police placed "notice to comply" signs at the property Saturday.
"There are alleged state environmental violations, state criminal violations, township health and zoning violations," Cunliffe said.
UPDATE 5-20-08 – According to the Asbury Park Press, it appears the abuse was not as bad as first reported:
…Investigators saw a steer "chewing a large paper bag and two ponies behind a man-made shed, chewing on a motor oil container, and they had no fresh food or water," Isnardi said, reading from the police report.
John Bergman, director of the Popcorn Park Zoo, said that the animals were in need of brushing and care for their hooves, but did not appear to be sickly.
Meanwhile, Matt Stanton, spokesman for the state SPCA, said that while the organization has not concluded its investigation, it appears the initial description of conditions at the zoo here were "blown out of proportion."
"At first blush, it appears this is just a case of abandoned animals, which is a form of mistreatment, but not as serious as first reported," Stanton said. "We've seen a lot worse."
Stanton said the SPCA representative at the scene will file a more detailed report.…
What we seem to have are animals kept in substandard conditions and not fed or watered over Shabbat – bad, but not the horrific abuse first reported.